Ahwatukee residents learn how to work compost

Many Ahwatukee neighbors don’t know there is a community garden in Ahwatukee at 4700 E. Warner Road wedged between the golf course, the basketball court, and the batting cages.

Yet, the garden has been slowly growing for a little over four years, thanks to the generosity of the Ahwatukee Board of Management, and a group of gardeners interested in sharing good times, great produce, and gardening experimentation.  

Five years ago, local horticulturist Star Heilman started planning to bring a community garden to Ahwatukee. The original plan was to create a resource to provide fresh produce for our local food bank, but food banks have a difficult time making use of perishables, and our garden space is inadequate to provide a large crop of one type of vegetable.

The mission has changed to an emphasis on building community and sharing information, while planting and maintaining an actual desert garden.   

We have a community work session at the garden at 7 a.m. every Sunday from May to October, and starting at 8 a.m. the rest of the year.  Sessions last about 2 hours.  Since we are an open community with no residence restrictions or fees, everyone is invited to drop by when they want.

It’s always a surprise as to who will be attending each work session and exactly what will be done.  

I, Kelly Athena, Linda Tate, Bob Korhely, and Bill Felton might have something they want to try that they learned at a recent University of Master Gardener Update class. The five are University of Arizona Maricopa County Extension Master Gardeners.

Deb Lamont might share a story about gardening on an allotment in England.  Om Vadwha might have some seeds to plant that he hopes will grow as well here, as they do in India. Chad Chadderton might be by to prune. Carol Long might bring a new neighbor or to learn about desert gardening, first hand.

Neighbors stop by before shopping at the Farmers’ Market. Some people drop by to contribute saved seed to the seed library, or to get seeds for their home garden.  Others come with garden questions or because they want to try desert gardening with group support before they try it at home. Children drop by to see what’s growing and if there are any ripe carrots, grapes, or peas, which are their favorites. 

They might taste some of edible flowers which we use to entice pollinators and neighbors to the garden. Boy Scouts have been another integral part of the garden. To date, six boys have earned their Eagle Scout rank with garden projects.  

We still share with the food bank when we can, and we hope that the fruit orchard, planted this spring, will soon be providing a large amount of peaches and figs that we can donate.  In these ways, we are growing community while growing the garden!  Visit us online for the latest photos and news at ACgarden.org, on Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us at ahwcomgarden@gmail.com

We fulfill our informational mission in various ways. This month we are assisting Ironwood Library with the first seed saw 2-3 p.m. Saturday.  Our master gardeners will be there to answer your questions about growing and gardening in the Phoenix area.  We’ll also have some tips on seed saving.

We host an informational booth monthly at the Farmers’ Market. Bring your plant questions and get a few seeds for your home garden from our seed library.   

Linda Rominger is a University of Arizona  master gardener, 25-year Ahwatukee resident, and current garden director.

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